22: Christmas Ice Storm

22: Christmas Ice Storm

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: A Book of Christmas Miracles

Christmas Ice Storm

Having a place to go — is a home. Having someone to love — is a family. Having both — is a blessing.

~Donna Hedges

My sister and I had already put up our Christmas tree, trimming it with strings of colourful lights, glass ornaments, and tinsel. My parents and my brother had decorated our home with outdoor festive lights and garlands, and had placed a Christmas wreath on our front door. The neighbourhood was decked out for the holidays as Christmas approached.

Then, on Saturday December 21st, we were hit by a severe ice storm in southern Ontario. The freezing rain fell continuously, and the ice began to build up everywhere. On Saturday night, somewhere in the distance, I heard the frightful sound of electrical transformers exploding. The lights flickered on and off, but I was relieved each time the power came back on. My mother went to the basement to find candles and flashlights in case we needed them. When my sister returned home from work that evening, she was soaking wet, and really cold. “The roads and the sidewalks are covered with ice,” she exclaimed. “It’s a miracle I didn’t fall.” My brother, who was visiting, decided to stay overnight, fearing the roads were too dangerous to drive home to his own apartment.

When I awoke the next morning the house was eerily silent. I realized the furnace had gone off, and we had lost power. We had no lights, no heat, and of course our electric stove did not work. The house was already cold, and we had no way to boil water or make coffee to warm up.

Outside, the trees and streets were covered with a thick layer of ice. It looked like the kind of winter landscape you see depicted on a Christmas card, with rooftops shimmering and trees encased in sparkling ice. However, the reality wasn’t as pretty as the picture. As the freezing rain continued to fall, the temperature dropped steadily in our home. As the hours went by we waited, hoping for the power to be restored. A neighbour came by to help us scrape the large build-up of ice from our driveway and walkway. Another neighbour, who had a gas stove, came over to offer my mother a kettle full of tea. “This will help warm you up,” she said.

With no radio or TV, we had no news about the extent of the damage, or when the power might be restored. My sister was scheduled to work that afternoon, but the slick, ice-covered sidewalks had grown even more treacherous overnight. She wasn’t sure she could get there, so my brother offered to drive her.

It was now early afternoon. With no power to make a hot lunch, we settled for making sandwiches. As we were preparing them, my brother returned with some good news. He had passed by his own apartment and discovered that his building had power!

“You can’t stay here — it’s too cold,” he said. “We’ll have lunch at my place.” We quickly packed up the sandwiches we had prepared, and left. When I opened the back door to my brother’s car, a sheet of ice fell to the ground. As we drove through the city, there were fallen tree branches lying in the middle of roads and hanging dangerously from power lines. Some streets were closed with yellow police tape blocking off the sections made dangerous by fallen trees or electric wires. It was a strange combination. There was the frightful scene of downed power lines and branches and, at the same time, a picturesque scene of sparkling trees and glittering rooftops.

When we arrived at my brother’s apartment we turned on the television and learned that the power outages were far more widespread than we’d thought. Hundreds of thousands of people were without power, we learned, and it might be several days before it would be restored. It was only three days before Christmas, and no one was sure if people would be able to return to their homes by Christmas Day. When I heard this, my heart sank.

From the beginning, Hydro workers worked day and night to restore power. Others came from all over Ontario and then from all over Canada, sacrificing their own Christmas at home with their family and friends to help Ontarians through this crisis. They worked fourteen to sixteen hours a day in cold and freezing rain to get the power back on in homes.

That evening we returned to our own home to see if the power had been restored. But it was still dark. There were no streetlights on in our neighbourhood, and there was no warmth in our dark, silent house. Using flashlights and candles, we gathered together some overnight supplies. We let the water run to prevent the pipes from freezing. To our surprise a glass of water which my mother had left on the kitchen table already had ice in it.

On our way out, my mother saw our neighbour outside. He had decided not to leave his home despite the loss of power. They had a gas stove, and were able to at least prepare hot food and drinks. His little granddaughter was at a relative’s house, however, because her lips had turned blue in the cold.

“I wish I didn’t have to leave,” my mother sighed. “I’ve never had to leave my home before, especially at Christmas.” She gave him a box of chocolates as a Christmas gift and asked him, “Please watch over our home, and call me if you see anything.” He smiled when he saw the chocolates, knowing they would cheer up his granddaughter. “Don’t worry,” he said. “I’ll let you know if I see anything.”

When Christmas Eve arrived there was still no power in our neighbourhood. But we were all at my brother’s, preparing our traditional Italian Christmas Eve dinner, a special meal made up of fish and pasta dishes. Despite the difficulties, we were all together and that was the most important thing. Just as we were about to sit down to dinner the phone rang. It was our neighbour announcing that the lights had come back on. We were ecstatic! Those hard working Hydro workers had restored power to our neighbourhood, and we could go home.

When we returned home, we immediately turned on the Christmas lights. As our neighbourhood quickly sprang to life, those lights seemed to shine more brightly that Christmas Eve than ever before. The Christmas of 2013 will forever be remembered in Toronto as the Christmas of the Great Ice Storm. Filled with Christmas spirit, everyone worked together to help bring about a Christmas miracle.

~Nada Mazzei

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